Stellenbosch Update #7 (Friday evening February 15, 2008)

More rain earlier today. It actually felt chilly this morning. Of course temperature is all relative. It’s 70˚ F here. But it will warm up now that the sun is out again.

I was able to talk to Mrs. de la Bat today. She took me into the rest of the house and gave me a little tour. The house was built in 1932 and is a very unusual shape. It is sort of like an “L” shape, but with both ends the same length. The center area is a patio and entry hall, the hub of the house. To the right, down the “arm” are the bedrooms (hers and two guest rooms) and bathrooms. Also, Mrs. de la Bat’s office/study. To the left is the living room and dining room. Also at the center, beyond the entry is the kitchen and informal eating area. The ceilings are all very high. Most Cape Dutch houses have high ceilings that are made of wood, with exposed beams. The walls are almost always very thick. The windows are double-hung so that hot air can escape at the top and cool air can come in the bottom. Her house has clay tiles for the roof. But many of the historic houses have very thick thatch instead.

She bought the house in 1982 just after her husband died (at age 54). He had been the head game warden in Namibia for several decades. They lived in Namibia their entire married life. Her house has some interesting decorations. Like elephant feet. She explained that the feet are cut off, then the back of the leg is slit and the meat is taken out. Then the back is sewn up and the whole foot stuffed with salt. It dries to a very hard surface. The empty feet are used kind of how we would use planters or as a holder for a dust bin. I don’t think this is a very common item… definitely not one you would see in the stores. She has wonderful African art on the walls and beautiful wood furniture. Most of the furniture is very simple with gorgeous, clean lines. The room where I am staying is attached to the garage. Originally the bathroom area of my room was the servants quarters. In addition to some remodeling to open up the layout of the house, she planted some unusual trees. There are pomegranates growing outside and also a rose apple tree. The rose apples are funny little oblong fruits and when you bite into them they definitely taste the way a rose smells (if that makes sense).

Many of the houses in Stellenbosch are part of a historic registry and have a seal on the front of the house that indicates that they are not allowed to change the outside appearance of the building. I’ve posted a photo of the seal in the latest album in Facebook (#4).

Some of the stores here have a variety of “local” work. “Local” meaning somewhere in South Africa. A few of the items are pretty ingenius. Wire is twisted into various items (animals, bracelets, toys). But the most unique are the wallets and purses made by cutting cardboard boxes (from, say, butter) into strips and then weaving them into a flat piece. They are laminated and then “sewn” into a wallet or purse. Tin and aluminum cans are cut into various shapes and transformed into toy cars (with bottlecap wheels) and birds. There are also purses and wallets made from cut up license plates. Waste not, want not. Recycling here takes many forms. On campus there are bins for the kind of recycling we are more used to. The most different thing is that they also recycle aerosol cans.

Oh, I was successful in getting my borrowed cell phone working. I bought some airtime. I’d give you my cell phone number, but it would probably cost you ( and me) a fortune to have a conversation. I’m glad I can connect with people here though!